Gas range right next to wall - risk assessment?
May 25, 2017 6:45 AM   Subscribe

We are looking at houses, and have seen several "flips" where there is a gas range right up against a corner wall or full height cabinet. I'm bothered by this from both a logistic and a life safety standpoint. Am I being realistic or am I exaggerating the risk because I’m nervous about owning a home? I picture burning the place down the first time we cook dinner.

Logistically, I don't like having counter on only one side, plus having to turn pot and pan handles awkwardly. I'm also worried about grease stains and, you know, combustion. I’m pretty sure this is against code (New York state), although I’m not totally sure how residential code applies to renovations to existing houses. These are kitchens that have never been used – it’s not like we can say, “Well, the previous owner has been cooking on it safely for ten years.” If it’s a code violation, is it the sort of thing that an inspector would list?

I'm also worried that there are other instances where the flipper has made decisions based on ease or expense of construction without thought to how it will actually be to live with, risks, or code violations. How much can we depend on a good inspector catching?
posted by Kriesa to Home & Garden (23 answers total)
 
I was initially confused, but I think you mean that there's a wall directly to the left or right of the cooktop, right?

Ask is probably not the best place to go to find out a definitive answer re: code. Do you know any real estate authorities locally?
posted by uberchet at 6:51 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


It would certainly be annoying and very, very messy having a range with a wall next to it, gas or not. I don't think it's a safety concern, but that doesn't matter. What matters are codes for your area. For all you know, that wall could be made of special materials to have a range next to it.

1) Is it up to code?
2) Is having a wall next to your range going to annoy you every single time you use it?
posted by TinWhistle at 6:55 AM on May 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


It's against code here. Common solution is to put up a few inches of stainless steel sheet wrapping the wall or cabinet at roughly flame height. It's ugly but safe.
posted by miyabo at 7:03 AM on May 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


I would not buy a house where the range, gas, electric or wood burning was up against a wall or full height cabinet. I am sure you could make it up to code, but it is as you point out a red flag for other issues, shows poor planning on the developers or homeowners part, will be hard to use certain pots and pans on it, will make the wall a greasy mess, and probably does not even look that good. If you like the rest of the house and this is your hesitation, see how much it would cost to move it including cabinets and flooring, etc.
posted by AugustWest at 7:03 AM on May 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


Data point: I live in NY and my gas range/oven is in a corner against a wall. No idea if it's to current code (old building; kitchen last redone probably in the late 90s), but I cook/bake a lot and haven't blown up the place yet.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:04 AM on May 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


Data point: I live in NY and my gas range/oven is in a corner against a wall. No idea if it's to current code (old building; kitchen last redone probably in the late 90s), but I cook/bake a lot and haven't blow up the place yet.

Same, in my old DC area condo. I do a decent amount of cooking/baking and haven't had any issues in the years I've been in it. I do tend to not use the burners closest to the wall, but it's more from concern related to messiness, rather than safety.
posted by raztaj at 7:08 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


We lived for 4 years in this situation. I never felt unsafe, however logistically it wasn't great, but not as bad as having an electric range sucked at our house before this. I'm never using an electric range again. We recently renovated the kitchen/dining room, and that wall disappeared and there's a small 15" counter on the other side of the stove which is mostly in the same position, and even tho the reno is still under way, I'm so happy for the work to have both sides of the range open with surfaces to put/have stuff ready.

TLDR: logistically you'll be annoyed with this setup until you die, move or the wall is removed. But annoyed isn't as bad as life without a gas range.
posted by nobeagle at 7:19 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


I was initially confused, but I think you mean that there's a wall directly to the left or right of the cooktop, right?
Yes, exactly. Here is an example that we looked at yesterday. In this case, it's adjacent to a pantry cabinet, just plywood or MDF or whatever, so even less fire resistant than gyp board or plaster.

Ask is probably not the best place to go to find out a definitive answer re: code. Do you know any real estate authorities locally?

More than an answer about the code, I was more interested in if we could count on a home inspector to tell us about code violations. I feel like I hear more about them reporting structural or wiring inadequacies, but we have zero experience with home inspections.
posted by Kriesa at 7:31 AM on May 25, 2017


Huh. I've almost never not had a range against a wall on one side. In my current home and previous condo the were walls built out expressly to box in the range on one side.
posted by stray at 7:35 AM on May 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


If its up to code, I wouldn't worry about burning the place down that much. Its possible, due to the proximity of wood to heat, but not probable if you are a cook. I wouldn't want it there mainly for the lack of counter space. I like having ingredients with in arms reach on either side when I stand at my range. Also, that wall might get really messy.
posted by GreatValhalla at 7:35 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


Food splatters, so if a wall is there it contains the splatters. If no wall, then the splatters go all over the counters and what ever is on them. Either way, a wet cloth is needed.

But I do agree, it's an inconvenient place to cook.
posted by Ftsqg at 7:41 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


In small spaces, this is how people often decide to make all these appliances work. Where it is next to full height cabinetry, that's where the flipper has decided that you'd go ga-ga over a full height pantry and not notice how annoying it is to have the stove right next to it. (The flipper is right – most people don't notice.) It may or may not be easily fixable depending on how much cabinetry you'd have to rearrange to get a gap. You can put up a piece of sheet metal or something magnetized against the fridge for splatters. A fridge should be able to take the heat, not sure about a cabinet. Probably depends on the materials.
posted by amanda at 7:52 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


I've lived in multiple places like that--NYC, Philly, Boston. It's not my preferred kitchen layout, for sure, but it's something you get used to from an ergonomic perspective. I don't know about Code requirements, but you can call the building department in the relevant jurisdictions.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:10 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


I've lived a place like that. I think it was a wall rather than a cupboard. Like people have said, it gets dirty, but at least it's a nice flat surface to clean. I never noticed it getting hot.
posted by quaking fajita at 8:26 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm also worried that there are other instances where the flipper has made decisions based on ease or expense of construction without thought to how it will actually be to live with, risks, or code violations. How much can we depend on a good inspector catching?

A while ago a flipper I know took me on a tour of some of their places mid-renovation. I also did walk throughs of a bunch of flipped houses while house shopping. My takeaway was that one should never buy a flipped house if possible. Nothing was done to code, permits were done only when forced, and bad structural issues were hidden with good cosmetics. (I know: "not all flippers, etc," but that was what I saw personally.)

My experience of house inspectors is that they might catch minor wiring issues or tell you about the roof, but they have minimal liability and wildly varying degrees of experience. With a flipped house, I'd be inclined to have a chat with the building inspectors office and request a walk through with them.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:42 AM on May 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


My kitchen has a tall cabinet right up against the stove. My stove also has an over-powered burner the shoots flame out beyond the side of the stove and my husband has singed the cabinet while cooking. It's fine, but is ugly and could catch fire if you really weren't paying attention. Mine passed DOB inspection in NYC, but no idea if it's technically against code or not.
posted by snaw at 10:28 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


Just another datapoint, I'm in NYC, and my gas range is next to a wall on one side. My building was built in about 2002, so I think they are likely up to date, codewise. It does make the range a bit harder to clean, and the wall itself gets some grease build-ups, but I've managed not to burn the place down in the last 9 years.
posted by Caz721 at 10:51 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


I doubt it's a code issue. Pretty much every gas range ever at least has a wall right behind it or is surrounded by base cabinetry (i.e. adjacent to the oven), and that's not a problem. Upper cabinets are frequently located on either side of a hood, and that's not a problem. I worked on designs for residential buildings for ten years (in California) and never had this issue come up in plan check or in the field. It does sound annoying though.

The one caveat though is that an interior remodel (like a flip would entail) might not require a permit or inspection, which weans that any number of things could have slipped through the cracks as far as plancheck or field inspection, or even general good practice. It might be worth talking to a decent home inspector early on.
posted by LionIndex at 5:05 PM on May 25, 2017


I've had gas ranges up against the wall in numerous places with no problems.

Our home inspector was also a complete pain about many, many insignificant code violations that have never been an issue in the five years we've been in our house, as well as a couple that I'm glad we had the previous owners handle before we moved in. If this is against code, I'm positive it would come up during an inspection.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:56 PM on May 25, 2017


Just moved from a place in MA with the stove up against a boxed chimney wall - it was recently redone and inspected, so I assume it was fine. We never had a problem. It didn't get hot - especially if you use your range hood, as you should. It required a wipe-down every so often, but so does the backsplash and surrounding counter anyway. This doesn't seem to me something to be anxious about. I wouldn't even say it was annoying.
posted by Miko at 7:29 PM on May 25, 2017


Ugh, I agree with you. Having counters -- even 9" but ideally more like 12-18" -- on both sides of the range is far better.

If you have access to the builder, s/he could probably fix it, if you have space. You might even be able to have another builder do it, if the countertop and cabinets are easy to match (which, in a very recent flip, they might well be).

In that picture, it looks like you could move the wall cabinets to the left and add some counter for yourselves. You'd have to pay someone to unscrew the full-height cabinets and move them over, install one last base and upper cabinet to the left of the range, and install plywood and a countertop (or failing a granite match, a butcher block or something else sympatico with the design).

Materials and labor would probably come in under or around $1k, so it need not be a dealbreaker on a house that you otherwise love IF you can verify that you can match the cabinet and handle style. (I think mismatched cabinets would be a dealbreaker for me. But those look easy to match.)

Uh oh, but the backsplash tile? That would be far harder to match, and impossible to make look continuous (you probably have some non-full tiles). And your price would creep up. The backsplash might be where my ambitious plan falls through. But you could pull this off in kitchens that just use a few inches of matching granite as the backsplash (do people do that anymore?).

If you don't have the space to the left, you could also consider replacing the range with a narrower one. I'm not sure the effort would be worth it, but you can easily find a 24" stove to use instead of a 30" one. But that's a lot of work to add just 6", and it would look a little funny with a 30" range hood / microwave above. If you really wanted more counter, we have a 20" stove now, and for 90% of situations, it's been perfectly fine, but I think it might feel a bit small to most people. Buying a new stove would add another ~$500 (or more if god forbid you also have to move the gas hookup).

Inspectors catch some code violations and not others, is my experience. I don't think they're expected to catch every visible code violation, but I might be wrong about that.
posted by slidell at 10:12 PM on May 25, 2017


I currently have this sort of setup with the right hand side of the stove being hard against a wall. It's a really old Queenslander style house, so the stove is housed in a little tin alcove thingy that is literally hanging of the house (it's an architectural peculiarity around here) so I guess they thought they could get away with it when it was installed. We've since blistered the paint by having a wok too close to it, and it's a colossal pain in the arse to use. You always have to have your handles over other parts of the stove to use the back corner, and it's a really small stove so it's cramped enough without having to deal with handles all up in my business as well.

It was also the consequence of using the cheapest possible workpeople installing the cheapest possible stove, so allow me to echo the folks upthread saying that this sort of kitchen build may well be an indicator of other, more hidden and expensive slapdash renovations.
posted by Jilder at 2:38 AM on May 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


NYS residential codes are here: ICC Website

The relevant section is M1901 Ranges and Ovens. Only a vertical clearance is listed.

However, manufacturer specifications must also be followed, it's possible the range may specify a horizontal clearance.
posted by no1hatchling at 7:13 AM on May 26, 2017


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